Hometown Christmas Saturday at the Amtrak DepotPublished 10:17am Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The Four Flags Garden Club of Niles has announced the featured events for its 18th Annual Hometown Christmas from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Niles Historic Amtrak Depot.
Entertainment for the free event will be provided by the Mt. Calvary Baptist Praise Team, who will perform gospel and Christmas music.
Niles Mayor Mike McCauslin will address the group, and Santa and community royalty will be on hand. Homemade cookies, candy and cider will be available.
The lights that outline the depot will be turned on during a ceremony at 6 p.m.
Two round-trip Amtrak tickets for Niles to Chicago will be drawn. Visitors will be given a numbered ticket stub and the name of the lucky winners will be called at 5:45 p.m. You must be present to win.
Durm Farms has donated the beautiful blue spruce tree this year. The ornaments on the tree have been handmade by garden club members, with a nature theme. The vestibules are adorned with greenery, lighted topiaries in the windows and a wreath over the mantle.
On permanent display is a mural of the Niles Depot from 1893 painted by local artist and garden club member Janet Seaman. The artwork had been hanging as part of a collage depicting the history of the City of Niles at the old YMCA. Not all of Seaman’s original mural could be relocated to the new Y building. Seaman offered this portion to Amtrak. It depicts the depot as it looked when visitors to Chicago’s World Fair traveled through Niles, nicknamed the “Garden City,” for the flower beds and greenhouse the Michigan Central Railroad established in Niles.
History of Hometown Christmas
How did the event start? As a result of a movie. The last scene of the 1991 John Candy film “Only the Lonely” was filmed at the depot. For the holiday movie, the studio placed lights on the roof to create a Christmas scene. When they were finished filming, they left the lights. Four Flags Garden Club members organized and created “Hometown Christmas.” It is always held on the first Saturday in December.
Maintaining the lights
Over the years, Amtrak and the City of Niles have pitched in to replace the light bulbs, check the wiring and other maintenance. By 1999, it was determined that due to weather and time, a major renovation of the lights needed to be done. The Garden Club Officers and members took on the challenge, and reached out to the community. Through donations from the people and some philanthropic donors, they were able to raise enough money to replace the wiring and lights, and to keep the lights burning.